Back in October Sid Hartman told us "...One of these days, the critics will discover that the Vikings don't have talent, and their record is not the coaches' fault." At that time I said that saying that our horrible season, to that point of the year, had nothing to do with coaching was crazy. I still believe that.
Now here we are 2 1/2 months later, the Vikes are 8-7 after losing two in a row. Prior to that they reeled off 6 wins in a row and looked like a playoff contender in the NFC. Today we know the truth: after this week's Bears game the Vikes will be golfing.
Now that we know the season is just a scant 4 quarters away from being finished, it's time for everyone to weigh in on Coach Tice. Why would I be any different?
At best the Vikings are going to finish 9-7. Speaking in numbers only, this would be an improvement over last year's 8-8 record. But the NFC is a different place than it was last year. Last year 8-8 got you into the playoffs, this year it would have taken at least two more wins. We didn't get 'em.
So how do you evaluate a coach? Does Mike Tice deserve some credit for rallying the troops to a 6-game winning streak? Certainly. Does Tice deserve some criticism for the 2-5 start? Yes. So I believe that we next have to look at who we played, and how we fared to get a look at our coach.
Let's have a look at who the Vikings beat this year.
Of the Vikings 8 wins:
-only one has come against a team with a winning record, the NY Giants.
-only one has come against a playoff bound team, also the Giants.
-three of the teams have only won 5 games this season, the Lions, the Browns and the Rams.
-the other two teams have won only 3 games each this season, the Packers and the Saints.
-they beat Detroit and Green Bay each twice.
-the combined record and winning percentage of the teams the Vikings have beat this season (remember, the Vikes have beaten GB and Detroit twice each, so their records are only accounted for once): 31-59, .344.
Not exactly what you'd call beating great competition. The seven teams the Vikings have lost to have a combined record of 66-39, winning percentage .629, and only one Baltimore) has a losing record.
One way you can look at this is that the Vikings beat the teams they were supposed to beat most of the time. The other way you can look at it is that they could never win the important games.
Here's how I prefer to look at it: the same way that The Common Man, Dan Cole, on KFAN, describes himself... The best of the lousiest, and the lousiest of the best.
This team is average at best. They achieved what they were supposed against bad competition, and they underachieved against good competition.
So where does this leave us with Mike Tice? It's hard to say, but I believe the best of the lousiest and the lousiest of the best statement rings pretty true for the coach as well.
Many people would say that Tice is starting to come into his own as a coach. After four years, he's figuring out his place, he's figuring out how to lead his players and his coaches. In short, he's finally figuring out how to be a head coach.
But let's not forget, without Red McCombs, a horrible, penny-pinching owner, Mike Tice would not be an NFL head coach. I guarantee you that if Red could have found someone who would coach this team for less money than Tice agreed to, he would have done it. The fact is that Tice probably never should have been where he is now in the first place. Tice got trial-by-fire, on-the-job training as a head coach in the NFL, something that very few other head coaches will ever get.
It's hard for me to form an opinion on Mike Tice. On the one hand, I like his honesty, I like the take-charge attitude that he's beginning to show, and I like his moxy. What I am not sure that I like are his in-game calls, the bad clock management, and the play-calling that sometimes seems like it came from the Denny Green era.
I think that usually when an owner looks at his head coach and is deciding whether or not to keep him, the question they ask themselves first is: can this guy still lead my team in the direction I want it to go? But in the case of Mike Tice, I think that Zygi Wilf needs to look outside the organization before looking at Mike Tice. The first question he might be asking himself is not in regards to Mike Tice, but about who else is out there. Is there someone outside of the organization that can lead my team in the direction I want it to go, and do it better than Mike Tice can? It might not be "this isn't the guy for the job anymore", it might be more of a "is there someone else better for the job" question now.
Basically, I think it's time for the Vikings, and Zygi, to look at all of the candidates for head coach that will be available. Certainly Mike Tice should be one of those candidates, but he should not be considered the lead candidate. At the end of the season, when all of the available coaches are put together and you then figuratively throw Mike Tice into that group, who will emerge as the best coach for the Vikings?
I believe that Zygi will wait to see who is available before he makes a decision about Tice. If, after all of the available coaches are out there, he decides Mike Tice is the best man to lead the team to the future, then he will make a commitment to Tice. But if there is someone else out there who is better for his team, I believe that the Zyg will pull the trigger and bring in a new coach.
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